December 5 2013 Latest news:
Friday, November 1, 2013
As the final properties were being reconnected to the electricity grid after Monday’s storm, bosses at UK Power Networks were today preparing to study the lessons of what had been a tough week for the company.
Head of customer services Sam Fuller said the last week had been unprecedented for amount of calls staff had received – and the number of incidents in a fairly narrow line.
He said: “There was a band across Suffolk and Essex that was about 30 to 40 miles wide and within that band there was very serious damage.
“Over the first three days we dealt with as many calls as we would normally expect to get in four months. We had four times as many staff as usual handling calls, but the level of calls meant there were queues of people trying to get through.”
In the immediate aftermath of Monday’s storm 700,000 properties were cut off – but 91% had power restored by the end of the day.
By the end of Wednesday 98% had been reconnected. By Thursday there were only 1,900 powerless properties and this morning’s total was 360 in Suffolk and 80 in Essex – by the end of the day Mr Fuller hopes everywhere will be reconnected.
“It is possible that there will be some properties that do not get power back, because when we make a reconnection a new fault may become apparent.
“If you are still off and neighbouring properties do have power, check your trip switch and if that is not the problem then give us a call to make sure we know about it.”
Engineering teams from across England and Wales had been called in to reconnect electricity supplies – and were continuing to work through the weekend.
“There are some places where we did emergency repairs to get customers back on power but we need to go back to do a permanent repair.”
Providing tomorrow’s forecasted storms do not cause more major damage, the visiting engineers should return home next week.
Once all the customers are reconnected, the company will review its performance and see what lessons can be learned as a result of the storm.
Mr Fuller said: “We will do a full debrief – learning what we did right, what can be improved if there is a similar event in the future.”
One community that will be interested to hear of any lessons learned is Ufford – the village near Woodbridge was one of the last to be re-connected after storms in 1987 and 2002, and had to wait until late on Thursday to get the lights back this time.
Mr Fuller said: “We shall look at cases like that and see if there is anything else we can do.”
He said the power company took action to try to ensure the reliability of its network – including cutting back trees and ensuring the technology was as robust at possible.
It would also be looking at how it dealt with inquiries – although Mr Fuller said there would always be challenges with dealing with so many calls in such a short time.
By early evening yesterday there were nine properties still without power in a total of six remaining outages – four in Suffolk and two in Essex. Engineers were still hopeful everyone would be back on electricity by midnight.
People left without power for a long time will be eligible for compensation from UK Power Networks – and its storm rate has been doubled for those affected by Monday’s gales.